I am just now completing a month-long whirlwind trip through Japan on two separate small group tours. We visited Tomonomura, an ancient fishing village on the Japan sea and stayed in an old, restored house. Miyajima, Japan's iconic 1500-year old shrine on the shore of an island near Hiroshima was as beautiful as I remembered from my 1971 journey there. White Himeji Castle was brilliant on a sunny day. We saw potter friends and their latest works in Hagi and stayed at Tomoe Ryokan, which is one of my favorite inns. Those of you who have visited Omoricho with me in the past remember it as a magical place. Omoricho only seems to get better over time. We visited Imbe town to see Bizen potter friends such as Wakimoto Hiroyuki-san. In Echizen, we spent a long time at the Echizen Ceramics Museum before heading to Imadate, the Fukui paper making village. The paper maker's Shinto shrine is a masterwork of carpentry, set in a forest of cedars. We spend two nights at a Zen commune on Noto Peninsula. Noto is made up of hundreds of valleys, dotted with large, black-roof farmhouses surrounded by green rice paddies. I think that it is the most beautiful rural landscape in Japan. At the Zen commune, we were treated to organic, gourmet country-cuisine. The wife of the priest gave us a workshop in indigo dying.
One day in Kanazawa was too short, but we had sufficient time for hiking along the river at Kamikochi in the snow-capped Japan Alps. After several days hiking along the Edo-era Nakasendo Highway through woods and old wooden post towns, we arrived in Tokyo. Last night we ate at Honmura-an's recently re-opened Roppongi restaurant. Third generation restauranteur Kobari Jun-san has transformed his family's restaurant into Tokyo's most innovative soba venue. Jun-san ran his legendary Soho branch in Manhattan for 15 years before returning to his native Tokyo last year.
I plan to post details of the above trip with photos in the coming weeks.